|Rep. John Sununu (Republican)|
The son of former New Hampshire Governor and White House Chief of Staff John H. Sununu, U.S. Rep. John E. Sununu has ended up following in his father's footsteps to political office, although he took a slightly different path to get there. The younger Sununu has gained national notoriety of his own by beating incumbent Sen. Bob Smith, who briefly mounted a presidential campaign in 2000, for the GOP nomination for his Senate seat.
Sununu will now challenge Gov. Jeanne Shaheen for Smith's spot in Congress. Sununu grew in Salem, New Hampshire as one of eight children, and boasts an impressive educational and professional background.
He holds bachelor's and master's degrees in mechanical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a master's degree in business administration from the Harvard.
Before entering public service, Sununu put his advanced degrees to work in the then-emerging high tech field, working as an engineer and a small businessman.
When Republican Congressman Bill Zeliff announced he was leaving his 1st district House seat to run for governor in April 1996, Sununu was one of eight hopefuls who decided to enter the race for the GOP nomination.
His toughest competition came from well-known four-term Manchester Mayor Raymond "The Wiz" Wieczorek. The two ran a close race, but Sununu emerged victorious with 28 percent of the vote over Wieczorek's 27 percent and 26 percent for former television news director Jack Heath.
In the general election, Sununu ran against former New Hampshire Democratic Party chairman Joe Keefe on a platform based on tax simplification and a reduction in big government. Much like his primary nail biter, the race was close, with each candidate carrying a different part of the state.
Sununu won the seat 50 to 47 percent by carrying the weighty Manchester suburbs and northern areas of the state. Sununu was reelected 67 to 33 percent in 1998 and recaptured his seat again in 2000 in by a less weighty 53 to 45 percent margin, due in part to a passionate campaign from state Rep. Martha Fuller Clark. Clark is once again pursing the 1st District House seat now that Sununu is vacating it in his run for the Senate.
A solid conservative, Sununu's record in the House includes voting in favor of prescription drug coverage under Medicare, against the Shays-Meehan campaign finance bill, against background checks at gun shows and in favor of a ban on partial-birth abortions.
Sununu has also won some high-profile appointments during his congressional tenure. He has put his past budget experience in private industry to work on the House Appropriations Committee, and in 2001 House Speaker Dennis Hastert named him to be vice chairman of the Budget Committee.
Sununu has been credited with successfully aiming federal dollars at projects in his home state, including scientific research and natural resource conservation.
When midterm election season approached in 2001, Sununu decided to bypass the governor's mansion, where his father spent three terms, and challenge incumbent Republican Bob Smith for his seat in the Senate.
Smith briefly abandoned the GOP for an ill-fated presidential run, and Sununu undoubtedly saw a prime opportunity to capitalize on his consistent record of loyalty to the Republican Party and President Bush's agenda.
The ensuing campaign turned harsh as the Sept. 10 primary approached. Sununu continued to pledge his commitment to the Republican party faithful as Smith emphasized his seniority and alluded, in a damaging last-minute campaign ad, that Sununu, who is of Christian Palestinian-Lebanese heritage, was soft on terrorism issues.
With an endorsement from the influential Manchester Union Leader newspaper, Sununu went on to defeat Smith 53 to 45 percent, the first time that an incumbent Senator has lost his party's bid in more than a decade.
According to the Fosters Daily Democrat, Sununu told supporters after his victory, "Early in the race a lot of people thought it would be bitter and dark, but Bob Smith and I were able to rise above that."
Sununu will face three-term Gov. Jeanne Shaheen in the general election in a tight political season where every seat has the potential to sway control of the Senate to one party or the other. Sununu and his wife Kitty live in Bedford and have three children.
--By Maureen Hoch, Online NewsHour